It’s been a colourful life for David and Gillian Helfgott.
“Not one boring day, ever,” is how Gillian Helfgott describes the life she has shared with internationally renowned, awarded and applauded pianist David Helfgott.
The life of the child prodigy labelled a genius, his eccentricity and illness was brought to our attention in the movie Shine, for which Geoffrey Rush took home a coveted Academy Award for his representation of David. Today, the ‘real’ David continues to live and breathe his music and wow audiences.
Gillian, David’s wife and the woman by his side for more than three decades, recalls the chaos of their early years.
“It was an enormous role to start with. The first years were pretty demanding and people doubted why I was with him,” Gillian says. “I fell in love with him; he is the most gentle, non-judgemental, kind person I’ve ever met.
“He is very affectionate and wants to love everyone in the world. We could do with a lot more David Helfgotts.”
Their house in the NSW countryside is filled with music; if it is not David playing, classic FM plays all day on the radio.
“I’m grateful that it is the one station at least,” Gillian says. “Music all day, downstairs and upstairs. David just keeps telling me that music is one of the most beautiful things in life.
“He does hours and hours of practice. No pianist in the world could play Franz Liszt without keeping their fingers agile. The works he is performing in Brisbane are huge virtuoso works, which is what he loves. He is playing all romantic works at the concert. We were keen to have beautiful music in this concert and this is what the world needs now.
“Without his music, David wouldn’t be with us. It’s his hourly companion, his life and passion.”
David’s recording of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (the “Rach 3”) was the number one selling CD in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom for many months. Both attained gold status.
In October 1996, David played four sold-out concerts at the Sydney Opera House, an unprecedented occurrence. A challenging world tour followed, with packed recitals and performances throughout the US and the UK, concluding with David’s return to the Royal Albert Hall in London where he played Rachmaninov’s Third to a capacity crowd and received a thunderous standing ovation.
Brisbane audiences now have the opportunity to hear David and be amazed by his virtuosity when he plays Rachmaninov, Liszt, Chopin and Beethoven. His objective, Gillian explains, is to promote peace.
“David has achieved everything that he wanted in life; he wants to keep sharing his music and his love of music and he wants people to love each other. I want the same,” she says.
“We’ve had a full and incredibly satisfying life. David has reached so many pinnacles but harmony is what we are wanting very much.
“This is why I hope David keeps touring for many years because with his smiley face, he shares more joy than most musicians.”
David Helfgott performs Saturday 21 February at 7pm for Medici Concerts 2015 International Piano Series at the Conservatorium Theatre, South Bank. For more information, visit our event guide.